Statement by Assistant to the President for Press Relations Fitzwater on Immigration Amnesty


April 6, 1988


Just over a year ago the President signed into law the most sweeping immigration reform in more than three decades. Among the provisions of the new law was a generous legalization or amnesty provision that allows persons who are unlawfully in the United States to become legal residents if they meet certain requirements.


In general, they must have lived here continuously with only brief absences since prior to 1982, and they must have been contributing members of our society and free from serious criminal violations of our laws. More than 1\1/4\ million persons have already come forward to accept this one-time amnesty provision in the immigration laws. They are made up of nearly every nationality. By their actions in this country over the past 6 years, they have demonstrated that they deserve the privilege of remaining here in a fully legal status without having to live in an underground society and fearing discovery of their unlawful existence in this great nation. Like other immigrants who have come through normal, lawful channels, they have shown a great willingness to work and contribute to our nation while sharing in our economic well being.


But the time to apply for citizenship under this amnesty provision will end on May 4, 1988. There may still be those who for one reason or another have not taken advantage of this one-time opportunity. If they do not do so soon, they will be left behind while their brother and sister immigrants enjoy living in the daylight of liberty. The President calls on all Americans to do whatever is in their power to remind their neighbors, friends, coworkers, and others who may be living outside our immigration laws, but are eligible for legal residence, that the time is growing short for them to come forward and join us as recognized members of our nation and our society. And he urges those who may be eligible to attain this privilege and benefit to do so promptly.